U/A: Sports drama
Dir: R Balki
CAST: Saiyami Kher, Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi
Here’s the thing I appreciate about movies, where the unanticipated turning point in a character’s life takes place so casually, you don’t see it coming. It goes with my non-theory about life itself. Which is simply that life is so random, we shouldn’t ever be taking theories on it seriously!
Consider that pivotal scene in October (2018), for instance, where the lead character randomly slips off the ledge of a terrace, and that altogether changes the course of her life, and Shoojit Sircar’s beautiful film.
Likewise, the protagonist in Ghoomer’s got the whole world, and cricket-bat, in her hand. Until she randomly sticks the latter out of a moving car, for a quick sec – something parents have always warned kids against. That’s it. She’ll never be the same again. Starting with loss of limb, therefore loss of the sport she loves and lives for.
Saiyami Kher (Mirzya, Choked) plays this cricketer, primed to play professionally for India. She’s a world-class batter, set to circumvent the usual selection process, i.e. a stint in domestic cricket.
Film archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, himself the son of cricket administrator, Raj Singh Dungarpur, plays Saiyami’s father in the film. Angad Bedi, again, son of arguably the world’s best left-arm spinner, Bishan Singh Bedi, plays Saiyami’s boyfriend. This is just two reasons to state the filmmakers, even if it’s through access to second-hand knowledge, certainly know their cricket.
And they pull off a plot that, in fact, is inconceivable, as per mid-day’s in-house cricket expert, Clayton Murzello. That is, a girl with one hand (the other non-existent), aspiring for a spot in the national team. Obviously then, you can’t bat.
So, that’s a full handicap for a team of 11, for one. The filmmakers summarily cite BS Chandrashekhar as an example – who, by the way, held the dubious record for scoring fewer runs than wickets taken, in Test cricket (plus 23 ducks)! They kept Chandrashekhar in the team for his bowling alone, didn’t they? They did. Also, there is mention of Tiger Pataudi, who captained India, with one eye, didn’t he? Not the same thing.
That said, the other characters seem to swallow the film’s incredulous proposition, with hardly a pinch of salt. This is the only drawback in the picture, in that regard. As for the audience, analysing a leap of faith too much, only disfigures the beauty of fiction, which is like God – you either believe, or you don’t.
In this case, you do. Ghoomer is a film on cricket that, as a national religion, I’m agnostic towards. Given the story’s got a further spin to it, only makes it more interesting, hence – over the usual, super-predictable sports biopics, especially with ladies in the lead, that we’ve suffered, lately; the likes of Shabaash Mithu (2022; on Mithali Raj), Saina (2021; on Saina Nehwal), to quickly trash a couple!
On the face of it, Ghoomer is also a dark tragedy, isn’t it? And this is where you gotta thank the writer-director R Balki’s trademarked lightness of touch, in dealing with a subject so grim, with soft advertising-photography, and a peculiarly gallows humour, he thrives on (Paa, Shamitabh) – to sail you through scenes, songs, even making jokes on disabilities or suicide, along the way.
So, you’re in it, not for virtue-signalling/sympathy alone. You’re inherently enjoying a film. Which isn’t to suggest the time-tested tropes of sports movies – always about supreme sacrifice, before eventual success of the underdog – don’t exist. They’re inevitable/inescapable. Mercifully, we’re spared the shot of the protagonist training on tyres since Rocky (1976)!
Still, there are enough boxes ticked, to a point that certain stretched portions, before the finale (third act), or even the climax, feel like deliberate dÃ©jÃ vu. Chuck Chak De India (2007), for a moment – this is also a Balki movie, which has its own checklist.
To start with, Amitabh Bachchan, in some form, on/off the screen. Bachchan makes it to the commentary box in a cameo, as himself. In a way, that Bachchan had a pop-culture reference, as himself, in a movie (Badla), where he was already playing a role! His son, Abhishek Bachchan, here, is the male lead.
The part that Big B would’ve played, straight off the bat, in Ghoomer, is of the crabby, old, haggard, alcoholic, ex, failed, Test cricketer, who takes it upon himself to coach the female protagonist, to a glory he couldn’t once achieve.
That’s Abhishek in the film – convincingly channelling his inner Bachchan, if you may! Also, the actor, in the current phase of his career, with A for a middle name, expanding his repertoire, with roles that couldn’t be more unlike the last (Dasvi, Bob Biswas, The Big Bull).
It’s the pitch-perfect Saiyami, however, in the middle, on the crease – in a part that couldn’t literally be any more physically challenging, if you’ll ignore the pun. I don’t know her athletic antecedents. Her cricket must match the best – even if her bowling will cleverly baffle, like Kachra’s, from Lagaan (2001)!
What else do I love about sports movies? Ironically, life’s lessons in them. They work, if absorbed as entertainment. My favourite here? As with batting, there is partnership in bowling too: “Kabhi kabhi wicket jo girta hai, woh pichhle over ke dhakke ki wajah se girta hai (Sometimes, a wicket falls, because of a push from a previous bowler’s over)!”
The reverse, I suspect, is true for movies in theatres. Sometimes, people go to watch a film, because of the one before, that’s already lured them in! As we speak, there’s post-pandemic cheer at the cinemas (âBarbenheimer’, âRocky-Rani’, âOh My Gadar’â¦). Wishing this well too.
‘YUCK ”WHATEVER ”’GOOD ””SUPER ””’AWESOME